kul-da (drawing the Sword) Shim Soo Do
chae-dan (cutting movments)



  Korean Swordsmanship Shim Soo Do™


Grandmaster Benko



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Shim Soo Do: The "Way" Of The
Korean Sword

There are several different styles of Korean swordsmanship. One of the major traditional styles is Shim Soo Do™. Founded by Grand Master James S. Benko, Shim Soo Do is based on traditional Korean swordsmanship which stresses moral values and emphasizes fluidity, harmony, circular movements, and the theories, concepts and principles of defensive action. The Shim Soo Do style of traditional Korean swordsmanship concerns itself with the development of the mind, body and spirit of its practitioners through physical, mental and spiritual training.

In part, Shim Soo Do consists of kul-da (drawing the sword from the scabbard), chae-dan (cutting movements), se-tak (cleaning the blood from the blade), and gum-jip (sheathing the sword). Each of these four components must be perfected. The intricacies of these actions may take years to master, and even then can only be maintained through constant practice and dedication to the perfection of oneself through Shim Soo Do™.

There are 17 hyungs (patterns) which must be learned before attaining the first degree black belt level in Shim Soo Do. Another essential part of the training curriculum is gum dare ee on (sword sparring sets). Sparring sets are practiced in order to understand the physical applications of basic and combination techniques of the sword.

A na mu ui gum (wooden sword) is an integral part of sword training. The student must first learn the proper movements of the yul ki bon pe-da (10 basic cuts) of the sword. These are practiced both single-handed and two-handed until the movements are performed correctly. Only later, after the student is able to demonstrate his ability to control the movements of the sword to the finest detail, will he be permitted to use a "live blade".

The yul ki bon pe-da (10 basic cuts) are the foundation of sword practice. Students, using the na mu ui gum (wooden sword), move up and down the training floor repeating each cut over and over again. Each movement takes the student one step closer to perfecting each technique.

The scabbard is slid into the belt, sharp edge of the blade facing upward. Some Korean sword schools require the blade face downward, but this is the "exception" and not the rule. The sword was kept in the belt in order to free the hands of the practitioner when not engaged in combat. When using two hands to grip the handle of the sword the right hand (for a right-handed swordsman), is against the hand-guard. The left hand is at the bottom of the handle. If the left hand were to grab further up on the handle the movements would lack both speed and power.

Shim Soo Do involves much more than mere physical training of techniques. The Art also focuses on the development and cultivation of nae gong (inner power) and wae gong (outer power). Shim Soo Do also stresses shim gong (mental powers and development). All of these aspects of the Art are taught in order to help the student attain a deeper understanding of himself through the study of Shim Soo Do.

This traditional Art of Korean swordsmanship also focuses on the development of the positive aspects of the exponent's character. The sword is not merely an extension of the practitioner's hand or movements. This is purely a physical interpretation and concerns itself with only techniques, which are only a small part of the complete Art. The individual who maintains this attitude toward Korean swordsmanship trains strictly on a physical level leading to low levels of personal character development.

The study of the Art of Shim Soo Do is a continuous journey, not an attainable goal. Shim Soo Do practitioners commit and dedicate themselves to the idea that they will be students all of their lives, each and every day. The Art becomes much more than mere physical or mental training. To the practitioner it becomes a "Way" of life.

In order to insure you are learning the complete Art of Shim Soo Do, you will find Korean Swordsmanship DVDs in our on-line catalog. Grand Master James S. Benko guides you every step of the way through each aspect of the Art of Korean Swordsmanship, in these presentations.

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Shim Soo Do Ranking System

The Shim Soo Do belt ranking system is divided into two different classifications, gups and dans. A student of Shim Soo Do who has not yet attained the rank of black belt is referred to as a yu gup cha or gup which means "grade" There are 10 gup levels in Shim Soo Do, with 10th gup being the lowest and 1st gup being the highest. Gup ranks are distinguished by different colored belts.

Once an individual has reached the black belt level he is referred to as a yu dan cha or dan (pronounced "don") which means "degree" There are 9 levels of black belt in Shim Soo Do which are divided into three distinct classifications:

  1. First through third Dan (Novice)
  2. Fourth through eighth Dan (Master)
  3. Ninth Dan (Grand Master)

The first seven ranks of black belt are awarded by performing physical and written examinations. Eight degree black belt and above are awarded by the founder based on several factors includiing, but not limited to, perfection of Shim Soo Do patterns and techniques, dedication to the Art of Shim Soo Do and parent organization, speading the Art of Shim Soo Do, and quality of character.

Shim Soo Do promotions are available from 10th Gup White belt to 7th Degree Black Belt. Individuals may advanced through the ranks using our exclusive training programs designed personally by Grand Master Benko. Grand Master Benko performs all of the techniques required for promotion up to and including 7th Degree Black Belt.

It is important to remember that no matter how long a person trains or what rank or title a person may achieve in Shim Soo Do he or she will always be a student.

Color of Belt Rank
  White Belt 10th Gup
  White Belt With Yellow Stripe 9th Gup
  Yellow Belt 8th Gup
  Yellow Belt With Green Stripe 7th Gup
  Green Belt 6th Gup
  Green Belt With Blue Stripe 5th Gup
  Blue Belt 4th Gup
  Blue Belt With Red Stripe 3rd Gup
  Red Belt 2nd Gup
  Red Belt With Black Stripe 1st Gup
  Black Belt 1st To 9th Dan

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The 10 Basic Cuts Of Shim Soo Do

In Shim Soo Do there are 10 basic cuts. These "cuts" are the basis of all Korean Sword cuts and thrusts. Any other type of thrust or cut is merely a variation of these 10 basic cuts.

The 10 Basic Cuts are practiced as 2-Handed and 1-Hand Cuts or motions. These are part of Shim Soo Do's promotional examination requirements. As with all Shim Soo Do techniques, the movements must be precise, and are therefore practiced on a regular basis in Shim Soo Do classes. The practitioner must be able to control even the most minute movement of the sword in order to insure exactness and precision. The 10 Basic Cuts are practiced both at normal speed and in a slow-motion to help insure the accuracy of the Cuts.

The sword is worn with the sharp edge of the blade facing upward. The scabbard is thrust through the belt to hold it in place.

The following is a chart giving not only the names of the Cuts, but the order in which they are taught and should be practiced:

Cut Number Name Of Cut
Cut Number 1 Straight downward
Cut Number 2 Downward 45" to the Left
Cut Number 3 Downward 45" to the Right
Cut Number 4 Horizontal (right or left)
Cut Number 5 Straight Upward
Cut Number 6 Upward 45" to the Left
Cut Number 7 Upward 45" to the Right
Cut Number 8 Straight Thrust
Cut Number 9 Inverted Thrust
Cut Number 10 Horizontal Thrust

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Shim Soo Do Patterns
White Belt To Black Belt

There are 17 hyungs (patterns) which a student is required to learn before attaining the rank of 1st degree black belt in Shim Soo Do.

At promotional examinations the student may, in addition to the hyung or hyungs required for him to advanced to the next rank, be asked to perform any or all of the hyungs up to the rank he is testing for. Therefore, students should practice all of the hyungs they know, in addition to any new hyungs they may be learning.

Improper execution of a hyung shows the instructor that the student has not yet grasped the correct movements of Shim Soo Do. If the student's movement is off by even a fraction of an inch it could result in serious injury to either himself or those he is training with. Therefore, there is no room for error when training with the blade.

Of all categories examined at a promotional testing, hyungs are the most critical factor as to whether a student passes or fails the examination. If basic movements are not learned properly, it will be evident in his hyungs. The instructor will continue to assist the student in the development and cultivation of correct form and technique through the practice of Shim Soo Do hyungs.

The following chart indicates the hyung(s) required for each rank to learn in order to advance from one rank to the next. A 6th Gup would be learning Ji Gum hyung in order to advance to 5th Gup. An 8th Gup would be learning Il Kong-Gi and Ee Kong-Gi, hyungs before advancing to 7th Gup.

Name Of Pattern Promotion
  Il Kong-Gi Hyung (1st Air Pattern)
  Ee Kong-Gi Hyung (2nd Air Pattern)
8th Gup To 7th Gup
  Sam Kong-Gi Hyung (3rd Air Pattern)
  Sa Kong-Gi Hyung (4th Air Pattern)
  Oh Kong-Gi Hyung (5th Air Pattern)
7th Gup To 6th Gup
  Ji Gum Hyung (Earth Sword Pattern) 6th Gup To 5th Gup
  Il Pul Hyung (1st Fire Pattern)
  Ee Pul Hyung (2nd Fire Pattern)
  Sam Pul Hyung (3rd Fire Pattern)
5th Gup To 4th Gup
  Sa Pul Hyung (4th Fire Pattern)
  Oh Pul Hyung (5th Fire Pattern)
4th Gup To 3rd Gup
  Il Pa-Ram Hyung (1st Wind Pattern)
  Ee Pa-Ram Hyung (2nd Wind Pattern)
3rd Gup To 2nd Gup
  Sam Pa-Ram Hyung (3rd Wind Pattern)
  Sa Pa-Ram Hyung (4th Wind Pattern)
  Oh Pa-Ram Hyung (5th Wind Pattern)
2nd Gup To 1st Gup
  Mul Gum Hyung (Water Sword Pattern) 1st Gup To Black Belt

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How Can I Advance In Rank?

It is best to train directly under a "certified" Shim Soo Do instructor and attend seminars conducted by Grandmaster Benko, to insure you are receiving the best instruction possible. However, as an additional method of training to advance in rank, is by testing through the ETP (External Testing Program).

Once you have enrolled in the program you shall receive a Program Guide outlining the requirements you are to perform for each rank in order for you to reach the 1st degree black belt level in Shim Soo Do. All ranks are certified by the KMAF (Korean Martial Arts Federation). You shall also receive the 5 Shim Soo Do DVDs whick contain the requirements for advancing in rank from 10th Gup White Belt to First Degree Black Belt.


You study the Korean Swordsmanship DVDs which contain the promotion requirements. When you feel you are ready to test you make a video of yourself performing the requirements for the rank(s) you wish to test for at that time. Submit the video with the $25.00 Examination Fee per Gup level. If you are testing from 10th Gup to 9th Gup, submit $25.00. If you are testing from 10th Gup to 8th Gup, submit $50.00. Your Black Belt Examination Fee will be $115.00. Each time you are promoted you shall be awarded a Certificate of Rank plus a Rank and Identification Card.

You may test for two ranks at a time in you so desire. For example: for your first test you may test from 10th Gup to 8th Gup, (belts are not included with the program). This will help you move more quickly through the program based on your martial arts experience and ability to comprehend and demonstrate the necessary requirements to advance in rank.

Once you have attained the rank of 1st Degree Black Belt in Shim Soo Do you may enroll in the 2nd Degree Black Belt Program. You may continue through the ranks and even enter the Master Shim Soo Do Program.

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Where Can I Find A Sword To Train With?

Currently there are very few suppliers of authentic Korean swords with metal blades, used in Shim Soo Do. There are many different types of Korean swords. The sword used in Shim Soo Do is the same type used by the Royal Palace Guards during the Silla Dynasty of ancient Korea. The blade is straight and measures 24 to 24 1/2 inches in length from the sword's hand-guard to the tip of the blade. The hand-guard is oval and large enough to protect the entire hand.

The only comparable replica sword available on the market today is what is commonly referred to as a "ninja sword". You may have to make one modification to the sword. If possible, purchase a sword with a large hand-guard, 4 inches in diameter, and shape it until it is oval. The "ninja sword" hand-guard is square, so it should be altered. However, if you have no way of altering the hand-guard or you are unable to find a sword with a large enough hand-guard, you could use the sword "as is". DO NOT USE a Japanese katana sword. The blade of the katana is curved and longer. The curve of the katana will result in you executing your Shim Soo Do cuts incorrectly thus resulting in bad form, poor focus, lack of power and accuracy.

A replica ninja sword can be purchased from martial arts supply stores throughout the world. You can find them being advertised in most magazines and on the internet. When purchasing a sword it is important to know the length of the tang. The tang is the part of the blade which becomes the handle. Some tangs are only a half to two-thirds the length of the handle. With a few powerful practice cuts the handle could snap. This has happened with several swords we have tried. The longer the tang the better. Try and purchase a sword with a full-length tang.

Official Shim Soo Do training swords may be purchased from time to time from us. Only those who are enrolled in or have completed a Shim Soo Do training program through our external training programs, may purchase a sword from us if any are available.


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How Do I Enroll In The Shim Soo Do
Black Belt Program?

To enroll in the program and begin earning your Black Belt in Korean Swordsmanship, complete the Shim Soo Do (1st Degree Black Belt Program) Application For Admission and any other necessary materials as stated on the application.

Once you have been accepted into the program you shall receive your KMAF Certificate of Rank, KMAF Rank and Identification Card, 5 Korean Swordsmanship DVDs, featuring promotion requirements from White Belt to Black Belt, and a Program Guide outlining the requirements you are to perform for each rank in order for you to reach the 1st degree black belt level in Shim Soo Do.


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How Can I Become A
Shim Soo Do Head Instructor?

Once you have been awarded your black belt in Shim Soo Do you may apply to become a Shim Soo Do Head Instructor. This will enable you to add Korean Swordsmanship to your school curriculum and teach Shim Soo Do to your students.

To become a certified Shim Soo Do Head Instructor submit the following:

  1. KMAF Head Instructor Application and Fee.
  2. KMAF School Membership Application and Fee.
  3. KMAF Individual Application For Membership and Fee (for yourself).
  4. KMAF Individual Application For Membership and Fee (for each student).
  5. Photocopy of your current Shim Soo Do Certificate of Rank.
Submit Fees in the form of a Money Order or Bank Draft,
in U.S. Currency, made payable to ITA Institute.

Once you are accepted and your applications processed, you shall receive the following: your KMAF Certificate of Rank, your Rank and Identification Card (unless you are already a KMAF registered member), your Head Instructor Certificate, your School Membership Certificate, a Certificate of Rank and a Rank and Identification Card for each of your students, A Schedule of KMAF Fees, and Applications for Promotion, for when you test your students.

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Must I Own A Building
To Be An Instructor?

No. In order to register your School or Club and become an KMAF Head Instructor, you must have at least 5 students (not including yourself). You do not have to have a "full-time" commercial school.

Many instructors teach at community centers, YMCA's, church halls, sports centers, and even in their homes or backyards. It is not as important "where" you teach, as it is the "quality" of "what" you teach. The true spirit of Shim Soo Do can be taught in one's backyard or home with only a few students, or in a full-time commercial school with hundreds of students. All you need is the ability and willingness to share your knowledge of Shim Soo Do with others.

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How Will I Know What To Teach?

To help insure Shim Soo Do practitioners are learning correct History, Terminology, Dojang Class Etiquette, and other necessary information, Grand Master Benko has created an extensive and ever-growing collection of Korean Swordsmanship DVDs which may be found here in our online catalog. These presentations guide you every step of the way through each aspect of the Art of Korean Swordsmanship.

To further help insure you are learning and/or teaching Shim Soo Do properly, Grandmaster Benko is in the process of publishing his newest book Korean Swordsmanship. Check our web site to find out when it will be available.

Shim Soo Do promotions are available from 10th Gup White belt to 7th Degree Black Belt. Individuals may advanced through the ranks usiing our exclusive training programs and DVDs designed personally by Grand Master Benko. Grand Master Benko performs all of the techniques required for promotion up to and including 7th Degree Black Belt.

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Copyright 1974-2014 James S. Benko and ITA Institute.
All rights reserved.